Peter Finch as the Sheriff of Nottingham

This excerpt is taken from the excellent book, Peter Finch –A Biography by Trader Faulkner….

“As soon as Peter had finished his six week contract in Point of Departure he went straight on to the Story of Robin Hood and his Merrie Men at Denham Studios. The Americans were very anxious to make an authentic, accurate film on the Robin Hood legend and Carmen Dillon, who had done memorable artistic work on Olivier’s film of Henry V and who subsequently designed Richard III, was sent to Nottingham to do detailed research. They were also very keen, says director Ken Annakin now, to get ‘what we’d now call National Theatre actors, which surprised everybody, because they never did manage to get any.’

Richard Todd, a contract artist, had already been cast as Robin Hood and Disney were determined to test everybody for the Sheriff of Nottingham. All the best available actors were tested. Peter had only done Train of Events, for Ealing and he didn’t regard himself as a costume actor. But ‘Peter’s test,’ says Annakin, ‘was simply great and everyone agreed he should play the Sheriff. He brought sincerity to the part with a lot of bite and I would say it was rather like the casting of Guinness in Star Wars. He gave the whole of Robin Hood a lift with consummate acting. He had some marvelous scenes with Hubert Gregg as Prince John, another very good English actor. Of course he had to do a lot of action stuff as well.

‘I remember one Saturday afternoon we had him on one of the typically untrained horses that England produced at the time. We had to do seventeen takes to get a close-up of him on the horse and it took us the whole afternoon. Every time we turned over, the horse seemed to understand at once and played up. Peter showed great patience. In fact, he was one of the most professional actors I’ve ever worked with. He was a sympathetic person and very responsive to direction. In his later life we all know he had a period when he started hitting the bottle. I never saw a sign of this when we were making Robin Hood, but clearly his life was not satisfying him entirely.

‘He was a marvelous actor, but if one has asked him in the old days whether being an actor was the sort of thing he really should be doing, I suspect his answer would have been that he needed more out of life than just that. I think he found himself forced into a shoe, a shape, which for a long time he didn’t accept.

‘He had the intelligence to be a director. I don’t know whether he had the patience to apply himself constantly. I always feel that direction is about forty per cent obstinacy and forty per cent patience.’

With the Sheriff of Nottingham, Peter began to be accepted in England as an important actor in terms of screen potential. Ken Annakin maintains that what Peter Finch did with his role was the best that an actor had done in that kind of film until that time and that people in the film industry began to take serious notice of him because of this. It gave a tremendous boost to his confidence and the possibility of a substantial film career really fired his enthusiasm.”

Peter Finch-A Biography by Trader Faulkner p.166-167

For more information on Peter Finch, please click on the Peter Finch Label.

Robin Hood in the Blitz

This extremely rare miniature paperback book with 32 pages is titled Robin Hood . It was published by Raphael Tuck & Sons Ltd as one of the Tuck’s Better Little Book series in the early 1940's. The book measures 6.5cm x 9.4cm. These little books were published during World War II when there was a severe paper shortage. They were referred to as Air Raid Books or Blitz Books and were designed for children and adults to slip into their pockets for reading in the air-raid shelter. They were published by several different companies.

These books are scarce as they were ephemeral by nature.

If you remember these books or still own one, please get in touch at

Australian Poster

Another very rare poster from the 1950's, this time from Australia.

Joan Rice in 1978

The photograph of Joan was taken, she says, “ after I rented "Quinneys" in Cookham through Joan, when she ran the Joan Rice Accomodation Bureau from her office in High Street, Maidenhead. Joan had "Quinneys" on her books, which at the time was owned by a Maidenhead lady whom I paid the rent to (I will get her name later from my diaries).

Was I lucky!

Since I usually carried a camera I asked her for her picture to be taken after we signed the contract. Of course she obliged, being such a warm person. See her wonderful warm smile.
This must have been mid 1978; when I unearth my diaries of that period I can be more precise."

If you have any information on Joan Rice or her husband Ken McKenzie please contact Maria at:
To read more about Joan Rice, please click on the Joan Rice Label.

Valentine's Day

I would like to wish all my female readers a happy Valentine’s Day for tomorrow! And just to show how romantic I can be, I have posted a very rare 1930’s Robin Hood style card for you! XXX

He Clasped the Dainty Page Close

As we approach St Valentines Day, I thought I would share with you one of my favorite Robin Hood illustrations. It is by Greg Hildebrandt and is titled He Clasped the Dainty Page Close.

I think it is absolutely beautiful. Many more of his stunning pictures can be seen in Unicorn's re-print of Mc Spadden's Robin Hood published in 1989 and at

The Hildebrandt brothers are well known in the world of Fantasy and Science Fiction art. Greg and Tim were twins, born in Detroit, Michigan USA in 1939 and both became professional artists in 1959. Their combined work includes the first Star Wars poster, Black Sabbath’s Mob Rules Album, illustrations for The Lord of the Rings and countless comics. Sadly Tim passed away in June 2006.

Peter Ellenshaw's Magic!

These before and after shots, from the The Sword and the Rose, were sent to me by Neil. They are a perferct example of the wonderful skill of Walt Disney’s award winning matte artist and special effects designer, Peter Ellenshaw (1913-2007). Matte paintings are usually paintings made on glass, fixed to the camera. There are certain holes left in the painting so the camera can see through the glass and into the set, thus creating the illusion that the set and the painting are one and the same.

Ellenshaw’s magnificent artwork, gave a picture-book quality to Walt Disney’s live-action films, like the Story of Robin Hood, Treasure Island and Mary Poppins. It also enabled art directors, like Carmen Dillon to create scenes that could be more impressive and realistic- decades before computer technology.

Peter Ellenshaw was made an official Disney Legend in 1993.

To read more about Peter Ellenshaw and his matte work, please click on the Peter Ellenshaw label.

Maidenhead Advertiser

My blog has made it into the newspapers! Well, the Maidenhead Advertiser. At the beginning of January, I was contacted by the Senior News and Entertainment Reporter Laura Enfield :

I work for the Maidenhead Advertiser and came across your Robin Hood blog entry about Joan Rice.

As far as I am aware we have never done anything about her living in the area and we would like to.
Please can you get in touch if you would be willing to pass on any information, pictures etc. that may be of use?”

I admitted to her that all the information I knew about Joan, was on my website and that she was quite welcome to use any pictures she liked. I also passed on to her Joan’s friend- Maria Steyn’s email address -for any more background details.

Laura’s appeal for information on Joan Rice appeared in the Maidenhead Advertiser on January 22nd and the Windsor Express on January 23. She told me that a lot of people came forward, but she didn’t have time to speak to them all, which is a shame. Although she has promised me that she will pass on their details and any more information.

On what would have been Joan Rice’s 79th birthday, I received an email from Laura with copies of the newspaper articles; included was this piece by Laura, from the Maidenhead Advertiser dated January 29th:

The final resting place of Hollywood legend Joan Rice has been revealed. Calls flooded in to the Advertiser after an appeal for information was run in last week’s paper.

The former Maidenhead and Cookham resident died in 1997 and the location of her grave was a mystery to many fans and friends. The Royal Borough’s Cemetery Team has confirmed that the star of Disney’s 1952 movie Robin Hood is buried at Braywick Cemetery."

Braywick ‘Lawn Cemetery’ is in Braywick Road, Maidenhead in the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead.

For more information please click on the label Joan Rice.

24: Terrible News

After two long years, terrible news reached England that King Richard’s Crusade had failed and that Richard himself was imprisoned in Germany. There was a ransom of one hundred and fifty thousand marks for the lion-hearted King of England.

In the Tower of London, Queen Eleanor and Lady Marian waited anxiously for news from the Archbishop of Canterbury, who had arrived travel stained and weary.

“I pray you bring good news,” said Queen Eleanor.
“We are thirty thousand marks nearer our goal,” replied the Archbishop. “The monasteries have melted up their plate, hearing that their king stood in need of ransom.”
“God bless them,” said the Queen. “What else?”
“London and the southern counties have given their all. So have the barons of the north. Yet one fourth of the ransom is still to be raised.”

The Archbishop paused and shook his head.
“Your own son, Prince John, has refused to contribute one stiver on behalf of King Richard.”
Queen Eleanor angrily sprang to her feet.
“He shall not hold back in the face of the king’s necessity. Tonight we leave for Nottingham!”

Queen Eleanor’s arrival in Nottingham was an unpleasant surprise for Prince John. He stood uneasy by the great stone fireplace in the keep of Nottingham Castle and embarrassingly faced his mother.

“Now that I know my brother’s plight,” he said with a sly smile, “upon the morrow, I’ll order a public donation in Nottingham Square. Even though I be shamed if the poor out give me.”

To read previous chapters please click on Story.

The Lost Rhymes of Robin Hood

There is no doubt amongst most scholars that there were earlier and ‘shorter’ tales of Robin Hood originally in existence. What we have are chance survivals. The Geste as we all know was a series of separate stories strung together, a pastiche. The author seems to have combined, often quite clumsily, ‘Robin Hood and the Knight,’ ‘Robin Hood, Little John and the Sheriff’: ‘Robin Hood and the King’; and 'Robin Hood’s Death.’ What went before we will probably never know.

But an interesting point was made by Dr Peter Coss (Holt.p.192) that the story of ‘Robin Hood and the Knight’ might have evolved from an earlier, independent story of a crusading knight or pilgrim, returning from the Holy Land. This once against highlights the thorny question of what is original in the surviving Robin Hood medieval ballads. Particularly when, as Maurice Keen points out
‘ many of the episodes can be shown to belong to a stock of popular legends, which do not attach to any one story or even to one cycle of stories in particular.’

One wonders what might have been on those manuscripts that Bishop Percy found being burnt in Humphrey Pitt's house at Shifnal, Shropshire, by the housemaid who was using them to light the fire!

But we live in hope. In about 1320 somebody wrote out an Anglo Norman poem in ordinary prose. It eventually found its way to the British Museum, but nobody read it because it had been carelessly labelled. It was ‘Fulk Le Fitz Waryn!

Please click on Robin Hood Ballads for more information.